Book, Music and Lyrics: Andy McGregor
Musical Director: Gavin Whitworth
Overcoming loss is a painful and elaborate process. For some, it can take years to recover from the impact, and the ripples of shock never fade. Often a form of comfort is found at the bottom of a bottle or something less savoury. But after David McGonigle loses his beloved wife, he turns to the one honest comfort a middle-class gentleman from Glasgow’s West End has: off-brand Iron Brew and a poke o’ chips.
But what happens if you mix Scotland’s two favourite delicacies in a drunken stupor? Soggy chips? Or something which could shake up the criminal underworld forever. Addictive, moreish and bright, Spuds shares these attributes with the namesake drug David creates and has fast found success as Scotland’s most unusual musical. Finishing its tour, Andy McGregor’s comedy musical returns to the arch-nemesis of Glasgow – the heart of Edinburgh city centre. But whether you’re a salt n sauce gal or a ketchup fiend, there’s one thing we can all agree on – Spuds is a rip-roaring, delicious and clever piece.
Glasgow Escobar himself Richard Conlon is two degrees away from the brooding menace of Walter White, but this twang of the West End variety belays a comforting and humorous façade. As middle-class as Waitrose Avocado Butter, Conlon slips effortlessly from the world of champagne and lobster into the murky grotto of grease, greed and grief. All the while sustaining an engaging zest, maintaining audience affection even as his appetite for more grows, pushing the designer drug.
It can’t all be a single-person operation, David requires a supplier, and he’s new to the game; someone else needs to handle the cash, someone who has the spark of creativity and initiative to market Spuds to David’s customers. Someone who perhaps is currently on their post-university gap yah? Daisy, David’s daughter, displays the tendencies of a pampered and privileged life, but deep down she cares deeply for her father’s wallet.
Joanne McGuiness carries the role with a soupcon of stereotype but maintaining an entertaining lampooning of vested lifestyles. As Daisy, now deceased wife Denise and mid-tier drug-lord Lucille, McGuiness has their work cut out for them, bringing individuality to every role. Harmonising with Conlon, the pair share several musical numbers, all wonderfully crafted by Gavin Whitworth: We Could Have It All and The West End’s Not Everything a particular triumph.
There’s an art in frying the perfect chip you know – and it’s a secret dear ol’ Toni will take to the grave. In a similar fashion to McGuiness, Ewan Somers portrays multiple roles from narrator to journalist, but his stand-out accomplice Toni the local chip-shop champion is an infectiously bubbly caricature of a man we’ve all met at 3 am on the hunt for munchies. But don’t let the padding fool you; beneath that strapped on pillow belly are the lungs of a Paisley Pavarotti, as Somers duets with McGuiness to the deep melody and power ballad No More Crying (Frying).
Small-scale but enormous in spirit, musical director Gavin Whitworth couldn’t care less of the minimal range. Each number is conducted and performed as though it held centre stage on the West End, Whitworth onstage throughout as pianist, staged under the effective and ‘moody’ lighting of David Shea. Never has orange been so seductive. Becky Minto’s humble design makes use of the compact stage, a splendour of visual gags and jabs hidden in the background, featuring a few unexpected cameos from the laws finest.
Spuds is a proper Scottish musical, and what precisely is meant by this? It’s tongue-in-cheek, crude and has absolutely no qualms of laughing at itself. We’re already scrounging for another hit of the good stuff from Sleeping Warrior Theatre.
Reviewed 2 October 2021 | Image: Contributed